American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect. The home medical equipment industry
by Shelly Prial

American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Shallow
men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”
The home medical equipment industry contains some of both types of
businesspeople. There are those who complain about “bad
luck,” and if it were not for bad luck they would have no
luck at all. Then there are those HME dealers — “the
entrepreneurs” — who never speak about luck at all.
Instead, they talk about the tangible activities they participate
in to build their businesses.

I would like to pass along some of those business-building

Staff: The entrepreneurs have staff members who
contribute directly to the success of their companies. They hold
regularly scheduled staff meetings where staff members feel
comfortable sharing ideas that they believe will help make for
better profits or larger sales.

Display: Several smart dealers have followed the example
of the mass marketers by creating large displays — placed in
a prominent spot — for over-the-counter items. The dealers
frequently change the displays to showcase new products. Their
customers look for these new items — and the number of
impulse sales generated by these promotions has created a great
return on investment.

Greetings: The entrepreneurs always greet their
customers. They make sure to have employees working the showroom
floor who will use the five magic words: “May I help you,

Successful HME dealers know it is imperative to acknowledge
every customer who enters the showroom. This act is so simple; yet,
when I visit dealers, I continue to see customers wandering
aimlessly about and then walking out — without making a

Mail: Dealers who send out a monthly newsletter that
includes one or two specials report great results. Their monthly
newsletters are usually filled with helpful hints, maybe a bit of
humor, and other useful information. The newsletters are
“branded” with the companies' names, and are mailed or
e-mailed to their customers.

Those dealers who distribute newsletters say the number of
“thank you” comments the newsletters generate make them
invaluable. Even better, these dealers usually notice an increase
in sales for the specials promoted in the newsletters.

Thank you: Some entrepreneurs send a brief thank-you card
to customers for every sale other than those for routine OTC items.
This card should be handwritten and personalized so that it is
unique to each customer. DME dealers who engage in this practice
say it leads to loyalty and referrals.

Here are some other hints from the entrepreneurs:

When you help someone out, you will profit. There is no
better advertisement than a satisfied customer.

Listen. If you listen carefully, your customers will tell
you exactly what they want and need. Then you will make the

Believe in your company and in yourself. No one knows
your needs, your skills and your goals better than you do.

Always be positive and enthusiastic.

Work with “zest.”

If you still believe that “luck” will keep your
business growing and strong, then you'll have to make your own. As
President James Garfield said, “A pound of pluck is worth a
ton of luck.”

Sheldon “Shelly” Prial is a partner with HPS
Healthcare Management. In 1987, he founded the Homecare Providers
Co-op, now part of The VGM Group. He can be reached via e-mail
at or via phone at